Len Marchand

Oil on Canvas, 28 x 36, 1984
The Honourable Leonard Marchand, P.C.
1933-
Reformer, Activist, Politician
Okanagan (or Skilwh)

Len Marchand
  • Born on the Okanagan Reserve in Vernon, British Columbia.
  • First Status Indian to be elected to Canada’s House of Commons.
  • Served in the federal government since 1968, retiring in May 2010.
  • Appointed Honorary Chief of the Okanagan First Nation in 1984.
  • He was the first Indian federal cabinet minister and the second Native Member of Parliament (MP), after Louis Riel.
  • Received the Order of Canada.

“I don’t want us to be marginalized.  I want my people to be full participants.  I want to see more of our people in the Parliament of Canada.” - The Honourable Leonard Marchand, P.C.

“Louis Riel was half-French and half-Indian...He wanted to make sure that the rights of these people had some place and that they could express themselves in this country.” - The Honourable Leonard Marchand, P.C.

The Honourable Leonard Marchand, P.C., a Skilwh (member of the Okanagan nation), did not set out to become a politician – his ambition was to achieve a Doctorate following his Masters studies and research in range management, forestry, agriculture and ecology. While attending the University of British Columbia, Marchand joined the North American Indian Brotherhood under the leadership of George Manuel. Manuel encouraged Marchand to get involved in politics and Marchand reluctantly agreed, a decision that would direct the rest of his career. He first served as an assistant in the Ministry of Citizenship & Immigration, the department that oversaw First Nations affairs at that time. Over the next several years, he became more and more involved in ensuring that First Nations voices were heard in national politics. In 1968, Marchand ran for MP of Kamloops-Cariboo and won, becoming the first Status First Nations person elected to the Canadian House of Commons. He served in government for many years, as a Minister, Parliamentary Secretary and Senator. After his retirement from national politics, Marchand was named Honorary Chief of the Okanagans, awarded the Order of Canada (1999) and received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from University College of the Cariboo (1999), a degree he never had time to complete. He still pushes for First Nations to assert financial independence and calls on First Nations people to become involved in government, and to educate and represent themselves.

For more information about First Nations in B.C., resources available at UBC, or information about these individuals, visit the Resources section.